Ap­ply­ing pres­sure

Eski­mos high-pres­sure de­fence pow­er­ing hot 5-0 start to CFL sea­son

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY DEAN BEN­NETT

While the head­lines have gone to quar­ter­back Mike Reilly and the high-fly­ing aerial py­rotech­nics, the num­bers sug­gest it’s a crazed-dog de­fence that has the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos sit­ting pretty at 5-0.

“Once you ap­ply pres­sure to any­thing some­thing’s go­ing to hap­pen. Pres­sure bursts pipes. As long as we keep ap­ply­ing pres­sure the sack num­bers will come and every­thing else will come with it,” said de­fen­sive end Odell Wil­lis said Tues­day af­ter prac­tice in­doors be­side Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium.

The Eski­mos oc­cupy the apex of the CFL stand­ings and will host the win­less Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats Fri­day.

So far in 2017, Reilly and his of­fence have dom­i­nated the high­light reels with three fourth-quar­ter game-win­ning drives. Last week, in a 37-26

win over the B.C. Li­ons, three Eski­mos re­ceivers went over 100 yards, high­lighted by Vi­dal Hazel­ton’s 108-yard catch-and run TD.

The Green and Gold, in fact, won their first four games by a com­bined 12 points be­fore eclips­ing BC by 11.

It’s been the de­fence — in par­tic­u­lar the veteran line — that has kept the Eski­mos close.

They’re tops in fewest of­fen­sive TDs al­lowed (10), in op­po­si­tion pass­ing TDs al­lowed (5), op­po­si­tion net of­fence (310 yards per game), and pass­ing yards al­lowed (244.4 per game).

They give up 22.6 points to the of­fence per game. Only Calgary is bet­ter, at 18.2.

The pass de­fence is the bread and but­ter. They own a league­lead­ing 87.6 op­po­si­tion pass ef­fi­ciency rat­ing.

They’re crazy for the quar­ter­back. They’ve pres­sured the op­pos­ing passer eight times a game on av­er­age, best in the league. They have 12 sacks, tied for third.

Wil­lis, at 32, has five QB sacks and 10 pres­sures.

De­fen­sive tackle Al­mondo Sewell said the coach­ing staff set the bar high on the im­port ra­tio, and then drilled the fun­da­men­tals.

“They came to us this year and they’re like ‘Look, man we’re go­ing with an all-Amer­i­can front this year, you guys gotta get off the ball (quickly).’

Sewell said de­fen­sive line coach Casey “is al­ways on us ev­ery sin­gle day. There’s never a down mo­ment … get off the ball get off the ball, you prac­tice good, you play good.”

“(De­fen­sive co-or­di­na­tor Mike) Bene­v­ides re­ally sim­pli­fied it for us: we’re go­ing to live and die by our front four,” he added.

“We do a good job of pro­tect­ing the younger guys on the back end, be­cause it al­most seems like we lose a key guy ev­ery sin­gle game.”

The de­fence, in fact the en­tire ros­ter, has been hit with a slew of in­juries, par­tic­u­larly in the lineback­ing corps and in the de­fen­sive back­field.

Mid­dle line­backer and de­fen­sive leader J.C. Sher­ritt was lost for the sea­son in game one with a rup­tured Achilles ten­don.

Lineback­ers Kenny Ladler and Korey Jones have been step­ping up in his ab­sence. Ladler has 30 de­fen­sive tack­les, 7th in the CFL, along with two in­ter­cep­tions.

“The front four, they make our jobs eas­ier,” said Ladler.

“We just have to make sure we don’t give up the big plays.”


Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos line­backer Kenny Ladler (left) cel­e­brates with de­fen­sive back Ar­jen Colquhoun af­ter he in­ter­cepted a pass to end the game against the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats dur­ing CFL ac­tion in Hamil­ton, Ont. on July 20.

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